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Safaricom sets up Sh200m lab to test new technologies

Safaricom headquarters on Nairobi's Waiyaki Way. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Telco Safaricom has set up a Sh200 million lab to test new technologies as it seeks to cut down on the time it takes to bring products and services to market.

Safaricom says the new facility, located at its headquarters on Waiyaki Way in Nairobi, is a miniature reproduction of its entire network.

The telecoms lab includes replications of the firm’s billing system, mobile money servers as well as cloud computing and Internet infrastructure.

Safaricom is using the lab to test new technology before rolling it out for use by its 28.1 million customers.

Companies are generally cautious about installing changes to their networks as they fear service interruption.

“Previously, the inherent risk of testing and deploying upgrades on live networks has impacted the pace at which such improvements can be rolled out,” said the NSE-listed firm in a statement.

Trials began at the lab in last November. The telco says it is running tests on advanced 4G Internet technology that would allow for data transfers at a rate of 1 gigabit per second. It is also testing a mobile network that runs on the cloud and Internet-enabled water meters.

The firm had in April suffered a network outage that was later attributed to a failed upgrade.  Safaricom says the new lab will allow “vigorous and expedited testing” of upgrades meaning that they “can be deployed on the live network at less than half the time it usually takes”.

Cisco, Huawei and Nokia are among companies that donated equipment for the lab. Safaricom also plans for the lab to become a training ground for local telecommunications experts.

Eventually the lab will be opened up to local universities to provide hands-on training for engineering students.



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